I finally did it: I’ve moved my contact database over to the web. After extensive research of different CRM solutions (thanks BestVendor), we’re working with Salesforce.com. We also used Salesforce heavily at one of my prior companies, Circle of Experts.
I’ve been a loyal Act user for my personal CRM system since 1996, and have 13,000 contacts in my database. I knew that the modern generation of social, web-based CRM systems offered vastly more functionality, and that I really needed to move my and ff VC’s contacts over to a web-based platform. Act’s web-based service just wasn’t adequate; it was clearly not a web-native product. We also use Hashable for certain functions, but it’s not designed to be a full-featured CRM.
I had been resisting the transition for a long time, because I knew that it would take me easily 20-60 hours to convert my data and get up to speed in the new system, and I kept feeling I didn’t have that type of time to spare. (Note to self: this is a classic error of foregoing Quadrant II activities which are important and non-urgent.)
However, I finally allocated the time to do it earlier this year. Our star intern Max Segan and I spent a lot of time evaluating a number of web-based CRM systems, and the choice came down to Zoho and Salesforce. (I assume Google Contacts will eventually evolve to be a proper CRM, but at the moment it is absolutely minimal bare bones, so can’t be used as a CRM system. ) We had a strong bias to Zoho. It’s much more economical, it’s a disruptive startup (we like those!), and offers an integrated suite of web-based tools. I really like their business strategy and would love to have been an investor.
However, Zoho has some issues that made it unfeasible for us to use it:
- The system is rampant with typos, e.g., “referredd”. If they’re making errors in code I can see, I assume they’re making errors in code I cannot see. For examples, see below.
- When it asks for Google’s permission to integrate, it glitched and displayed Google docs 3 times and Google apps 2 times.
- When we configured the sync with Google Contacts, it did not allow us to save sync settings midway through selecting options. This means that there’s no way to save all of our work setting up custom fields.
- There is no way to sync checkbox fields with Google Contacts, for no reason we can discern.
- We had significant errors in syncing. For example, Zoho says incorrectly that multiple fields are mapping to our custom field “referred by”, which is not correct.
- Tech support could not solve the above issues. We needed to wait from Friday until Tuesday to get an engineer. They said they’d call Tuesday, but didn’t, so we called them. They said they’d call Friday; didn’t get a call then either. They failed to call back on three promised occasions. By contrast, Salesforce smothers you with support; they will call you 2x/day every day until you tell them that they’ve addressed your support query.
- The quantity of sync between Zoho and Google Contacts is limited to 500 contacts, and the frequency to every four days.
These are all solveable problems. I presume Zoho will address these glitches in time, but I can’t wait around for that to happen.
Of course, Salesforce has its glitches too.
- It does not save import field mappings between imports. Instead, it only tells you about invalid inputs at the end. You must go back and re-enter all of your custom fields to address the broken field mappings.
- There is no built in sync with Google contacts; you must use a third party app (suggested: Appirio) at extra cost, and Appirio does not handle more than 1,000 contacts properly.
- There is no built in sync with Gmail; you must use a third party app (suggested: iHance) at extra cost.
- There is no built-in ability to import business cards or signature files; you must use a third party app (recommended: ScanBizCards) at extra cost. It’s surprising to me that a firm with the vast development resources of Salesforce.com does not provide this functionality built-in, since virtually every customer needs it.
As a more general comment, Salesforce’s primary interface is through the dashboard, as opposed to through your email client. Streak and other CRM startups have figured out that salespeople live in their email client and hate going to a web-based interface to enter data; Salesforce needs to redesign around making as much data as possible flow from/to the email system, without requiring clicking outside of that client.